Moles are skin growths that happen when the pigment cells in the skin grow in a cluster, rather than being spread out across the skin.
Moles are very common.
Sometimes children have moles when they’re born. But it’s more common for children to get moles after a year or so and to get more moles as they get older. By the age of 15 years, most Australian children have about 50 moles.
Moles are mostly harmless. Moles aren’t cancerous. Some moles can turn into melanomas, but the risk is very low for children and adolescents.
Symptoms of moles
Moles are usually:
- brown, black, pink or blue
- small, smooth and flat but can also be raised and hairy
- round or oval shaped and symmetrical.
Moles usually grow on the face, head, neck, back, arms and legs.
Some children might have only a few moles on their body, whereas others have a lot.
Does your child need to see a doctor about moles?
Maybe. You should see your GP if your child develops a rapidly growing mole or your child’s mole:
- becomes itchy or sore
- starts bleeding or develops a crust
- changes colour, especially if it gets darker, looks crooked or has an uneven border
- becomes raised and lumpy.
Treatment for moles
Doctors don’t usually recommend that children have moles removed, for either medical or cosmetic reasons. This is because moles don’t usually turn into cancer in children. Also, the procedure to remove moles can be quite distressing for children and has a high risk of scarring.
It’s usually best to wait until the teenage years before looking into mole removal. At this age, your child can decide for themselves about whether to get a mole removed. They’ll also be better able to handle the procedure.
Ask your GP for a referral to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to discuss your options.
Prevention of moles
You can keep your child safe in the sun by using plenty of SPF 30+ or higher, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. Shade and protective clothing, hats and sunglasses also help.
Mole causes and risk factors
Moles tend to run in families. If you have moles, your child might get some moles too.
Children with light skin are more likely to have numerous moles than dark-skinned people.
Sunlight exposure can increase your chance of developing moles, particularly when exposure happens during childhood and teenage years.
There are some rare genetic conditions that are associated with a lot of moles.